School is Optional; Writing Our Own Stories

The assumptions we have arrived at regarding education are just that: assumptions. They are stories born of a culture, and like all stories, we can choose to believe them or not… We can choose, even, to write our own stories.” -Ben Hewitt, Home Grown

I have always been drawn to children. I spent my childhood following around younger cousins, excited to help out by changing diapers and playing with the babies and toddlers that blessed our large extended family. As a teen I babysat and later became a nanny. In college I worked as a tutor with elementary school students and studied education, spending time in classrooms, leading to work as a teacher. And finally, in my mid twenties, I was blessed to become a mom (the most challenging and amazing learning experience of my life to date).

What I learned through the experience of observing in many schools and later working in classrooms and even creating my own was that there is no one way to work with children. I also learned that many, many classrooms and teachers do not support children’s needs, leading to a multitude of issues including “behavior problems,” excessive labeling of children and a diminishment or even total destruction of some children’s natural love of learning. These problems have only seemed to become exacerbated over the years with the introduction of mass standardization measures such as No Child Left Behind and The Common Core. Standardization cannot coincide with meeting individual needs. My observations working in schools, in large part, led me to consider another way.

My classrooms have always been places that break the rules. Louder and a bit more wild than traditional school settings, full of lots of choices, freedom and fun, I’ve always considered learning environments as places for collaboration where all children’s (and adults’) ideas can be honored and explored. I’m the teacher quick to say, “oh, yes!” to children’s ideas and contributions, and I relish learning with kids about the topics they are most interested in. I have been lucky, in many ways, to only work in private settings not deeply investing in following standardized rules of the state or country, allowing the children and I great freedoms to learn in the manner that worked best for everyone involved.

In addition, I was fortunate, after having my son, to fall in with a local homeschooling/unschooling crowd. Gathering with these families only reinforced my beliefs that “education” does not need to look any specific way for everyone, and that our innate drive for learning will ensure that we learn everything we need to learn (and more) as long as we are in an enriching, supportive environment.

I have since been very conscious with my choices about my own son’s “schooling.” In addition to all of the learning he has naturally done at home and in the world every day since birth, he has participated in very unique, alternative, child-centered “school” options for as long as he loved them. We are now (re)embarking on a homeschooling/unschooling path, and we are both so excited about the possibilities.

Why do I share all of this on the Yoga Preschool blog? As I mentioned, I have always loved working and learning with children. I feel that assisting and supporting children in learning about topics of interest to them in a collaborative group environment is my calling. While I don’t support school in the most traditional sense (specifically the standardized, sit still and listen, one size fits all dogma that has overtaken much of the nation), I love gathering with children for open ended, non-compulsory learning experiences. In my opinion, school is totally optional, but creating cooperative learning groups that support and encourage children’s innate love of learning (such as our Yoga Preschool) is what I was born to do. My personal validation for gathering children for group learning experiences is that what we create together can be magical, our participation is a choice, and we love and enjoy coming together. If your child does not absolutely love where they are going and what they are doing for “school” or any other activity, I believe in questioning the activity as well as their participation, and if needed, finding another way.

In Ben Hewitt’s fantastic memoir about living and learning with his unschooling family, Home Grown, he states: “The assumptions we have arrived at regarding education are just that: assumptions. They are stories born of a culture, and like all stories, we can choose to believe them or not… We can choose, even, to write our own stories.”

I love that I can consciously choose to write my “own stories,” every day, with my family and the wonderful children and families I have the pleasure of working with. What story will you write today?

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4 thoughts on “School is Optional; Writing Our Own Stories

  1. So beautiful! I love the freedom you speak of in this post and that you integrate into RYP. I think parents are afraid that if kids aren’t directed to learn abc and 123 then they won’t. But I think we are all programmed to seek out the information we need to make our way in this world and children are the most aggressive seekers of knowledge! If we give them the tools they need they will figure it all out. We just need to support that.

    Liked by 1 person

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